After Ben Carsley kicked off the outfield Tale of the Tape series yesterday, I move on to the second part of the rankings, looking at a couple guys who will likely be deep league starters and standard league reserves. A.J. Pollock and Alex Rios are ranked 38 and 39, respectively, on our rankings. They are being taken in the high 100s or low 200s overall depending on your source of ADP. The former is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he only played half the year, and the latter is coming off one of the worst offensive years of his career. Feel the excitement.
In 2014, Pollock took this category somewhat handily, coming out ahead, .302-.280. Ultimately, both performed well here, each finishing in the top-21 among outfielders. They had very similar profiles, as well. Each outfielder struck out close to 16 percent of the time, and both carried high BABIPs. In Pollock’s only full season, however, he hit a more mediocre .263. Rios, on the other hand, has been fairly consistent as a .275-plus player. Pollock’s minor-league track record suggests his 2014 will be closer to his career average than 2013, but Rios’ consistency in this category at the highest level gives him a slight edge.
Winner: Rios, slightly
While batting average wasn’t a complete blowout, Pollock doubled his margin in OBP, ending the year with a .353-.311 advantage. Neither player is going to be a better play in OBP leagues compared to standard leagues, as both walk less than league-average. Over the last two years, Rios has watched his walk rate plummet down to around four percent, after spending most of his career around the six percent mark. Pollock, on the other hand, has a severn percent career mark that is similar to his minor-league numbers. If we assume that the AVG battle will be close, Pollock’s clear advantage in drawing walks gives him the edge in OBP.
Last year was pretty depressing for these two in this category, with Pollock winning, 7-4. He at least has the excuse of playing in only 74 games. Rios watched his power completely fall off the face of the Earth in 2014, mostly due to a precipitous drop in HR:FB ratio. The positive here is that his batted ball distance didn’t fall too much from its previous levels. While Rios has a strong track record outside of last season as being close to a 20-home-run player in his career, Pollock has never been a strong power hitter. With that being said, Rios has always been able to benefit from playing in strong hitters parks in Chicago and Texas. This year, he’s in a much more neutral park in Kansas City, while Pollock will enjoy the benefits of playing in Arizona. It’s going to be another close battle—PECOTA has them tied—but Rios’ past power and Pollock’s low home run totals throughout his pro career give the veteran the slight edge here.
Winner: Rios, slightly
Although Rios won this category last season, it was mostly due to the playing time disparity. His 54 RBI in 2014 were supremely disappointing, and was the third lowest total of his 11-year career. Obviously, his steep drop off in power played a huge role in this. Looking forward to 2015, the lineup totally favors the veteran in this case. Pollock is likely going to be the Diamondbacks leadoff hitter, relying on the pitcher and whoever Arizona decides to throw behind home plate to get on base. Rios, meanwhile, will be in the back-middle of a solid Kansas City lineup. He’ll be knocking in guys like Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, and Eric Hosmer. Even if you’re not confident in Rios’ power coming back, he still has a relatively safe advantage here.
Despite accruing 234 fewer plate appearances than Rios, Pollock only finished with 13 fewer runs scored. For the year to come, all signs are pointing towards him taking the category provided he is on the field. He not only has the OBP advantage, but also the contextual one. Pollock has the benefit of hitting ahead of three legitimate power hitters in Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo and Yasmany Tomas. Rios, on the other hand, has players like Mike Moustakas, Omar Infante, and Alcides Escobar hitting behind him.
While it’s hard to feel overly confident in either of these players in the power departments, both Rios and Pollock should be solid contributors here. Although Rios swiped just 17 bags in 2014, he’s been more typically a 20-plus guy, and even stole 42 bases just two years ago. Pollock had 14 last season in about half-a-year’s worth of playing time, and was a 20-plus guy throughout his time in the minors. This is another close battle, with both players being a safe bet to at least get close to the 20-SB mark. Pollock will be on base more, but Rios has the team advantage, as the Royals showed last year how much they love to run. I give him the slight advantage due to that team strategy as well as his track record, though it could easily go either way.
Winner: Rios, slightly
As mentioned numerous times above, Pollock missed a significant chunk of 2014 due to injury. Luckily, it was more of a fluky injury than something that needs to be worried about coming back. He suffered a broken hand from getting hit by a pitch, so it’s hard to hold that against his future. Besides that, he has been relatively healthy in his pro career, though he did undergo elbow surgery back in 2010. Rios has never played in less than 111 games, and his 131 in 2014 was the third lowest total of his career. While he’s had a number of nagging injuries over his career, he’s only hit the disabled list once, way back when Justin Timberlake was bringing sexy back. Neither Rios nor Pollock should be big injury risks next year, but I’ll give the latter a slight edge due to the age disparity and the fact that Rios’ nagging injuries have a chance to turn into something big at some point.
Winner: Pollock, slightly
There’s very little reason to believe either of these guys won’t be an everyday player. Rios has watched his performance against right-handed pitching drop over the last two years, but it’s not a major concern. Jarrod Dyson would be the lefty to platoon him with, but even in Rios’ decline, his performance against righties is better than Dyson’s. Pollock’s platoon splits aren’t pronounced at all, and there are no young outfielders who will push him out of the lineup. There’s no winner here.
This one is a bit of a tough call, as both players have higher ceilings than their ranking and ADP would suggest. At 27, this may be the year that we see just what Pollock can be. The potential is there for him to be a .300-plus hitter with a bunch of runs scored and 25-plus stolen bases. While that’s quite valuable, Rios has the skills to be an across-the-board producer. He probably won’t hit much higher than the .280 he hit last season, but there’s a chance he could get back up to 20-plus HRs. Put that along with a high RBI total, a good run total and 25-plus stolen bases, I’ll take that over what Pollock could reasonably produce. Although I think Pollock’s ceiling is more likely to be achieved in 2015, Rios’ is too enticing to not award him the win here.
This ended up being a very close battle, with four of the nine categories being very much up for debate. In the end, Rios went home with a 5-3 victory. Despite the worrisome drop off in power last season, I’m confident Rios can go back to being a productive all-around fantasy producer. Both players should provide good value for being a late-round pick, but in the end I have to give the edge to the veteran in this case.
And the winner is… Alex Rios